Sunday, 24 September 2017

Biddulph Grange Gardens Geology Gallery

Biddulph Grange has a very unique Geology Gallery which was designed in Victorian times to represent the 6 days of creation in fossils.  The seventh day is represented by walking out into the extensive garden.  It is currently being restored to its original condition.
The gallery and gardens were designed by James Bateman with the help of his friend Edward Cooke.  James and Maria moved into the Grange in 1840, shortly after their marriage.  The gallery and gardens were completed by 1860, but the financial burden of the work was a significant issue and in 1868, the house was passed on to their son, who very quickly put the property up for sale to a wealthy industrialist.  The house and gardens are currently managed by the National Trust.
The gallery is arranged in days, with suitable fossils fixed into the wall to represent the development of life.  Day one shows largely Cambrian and Ordovician fossils.
Day two is representing the start of vertebrate fossils and the development of smaller species within the seas.  And these fossils progress to more complex and recent forms by day six.
An additional slab has been added out of the main sequence to show a piece of lithographic limestone from Bavaria.  These fossils were becoming available after the wall was completed and this one was either purchased from a quarry site in Germany or from a fossil dealer in London.  There is no record of the purchase, but the fossil appears to have been in place during Batemans time at the Grange.  The original has been retained after many of the fossils were sold off.  The National Trust is now in the process of restoring the original gallery, using casts of the original fossils where possible.
This fossil is of interest to me since it is unrecorded and shows two fragments of pterosaur material.  A skull fragment of pterodactylus and a spinal associated group of fossil bones from a pterosaur which is provisionally associated with germanodactylus.
Biddulph Grange Gardens is a worthwhile visit, offering an unusual collection of plants.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Welsh Highland Railway

The Welsh Highland Railway (WHR) is a narrow gauge line running between Caernarfon and Porthmadog, across the Llynn Penninsula in North Wales.  It is one of the most scenic routes in the UK, passing around Mount Snowdon.
Our starting point was at Porthmadog station where the Welsh Highland Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway both share a platform.
Rosie and I have a regular travellers discount keytag, which gives us a small reduction in price for both the WHR and the Ffestiniog.  We have used the Ffestiniog Railway and facilities, but this is our first trip on the WHR.
The journey starts with the train running out of the station and along the main street on the harbour bridge for a good few yards before turning onto the dedicated railway track.
Following the contours of the hills and mountains, the engine is easily seen if you choose a carriage towards the rear of the train.
Even on a dull and cloudy day, the scenery has a lot to offer.  Mount Snowdon was in cloud today, so was not visible.  The cloud did not lift until we had completed our return journey.
The third class carriages are basic, but being built to a Victorian standard, they are spacious and comfortable.  The staff on board are friendly and give a short talk in each carriage, hoping to sell the guide book - a very good one for any railway enthusiast. A refreshment trolley delivers tea coffee and sweet snacks.  Food from the menu can be ordered and delivered to your seat, or there is a restaurant car for more comfortable sit down meals.
With high rainfall, the Afon Glaslyn (River Glaslyn) is very high and turbulent.  The riverside footpaths were submerged and the water was flowing very close to the bottom of the bridges.
At Beddgelert (Bethgellert) station the two trains that run the service meet across the platform.
On reaching Caernarfon, we had to choose the option to return in 1 hour or take 3 hour break in line with the return timetable.  Having driven there earlier this year, we decided to take the shorter option and returned on the same train.

On the return, the train approached the station at Porthmadog along the road, and this time I took a picture from the window to show the train coming off of the harbour bridge to turn right into the station.  We spent a delightful day out of the wind and rain, watching the world go by.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Aqualate Mere

 Aqualate Mere is a wildlife reserve that will appeal to the real aficionados of conservation.  With a small car park and two basic lakeside hides, there are no other facilities.  We went to explore the site and photograph dragonflies, which were there in abundance at this time of year. Above is a Common Darter
 This Brown Hawker was seen at a distance across the reed beds.
Common Darters were the most common species.  This is a female.
The male Common Darter has a red colouration.
Yet another Common Darter on a gate.
Of course there are lots of other things to see, like the water birds and song birds, but the one that caught my eye was this small frog, one of last years brood.

Thursday, 17 August 2017


Heucheras' are excellent plants to grow in sunlight or partial shade.  We have not grown them before, so they are a new addition to our garden.
Three plants have been added to the re-developing bed at the side of the pond; They are the hybrids "Obsidian", "Marmalade" and "Purple Palace".  We now need a couple of plants to add to the far edge of the bed - we may select two different foliage colours of Heuchera if we can find them at good prices.
The water lily is in flower at the moment.  The leaves are so big that we can no longer spot the frogs in the pond.

Monday, 7 August 2017

New Planes at RAF Cosford

The Bolton and Paul Defiant was an unusual aircraft, being a fighter  with a mid-upper gun turret fitted behind the cockpit.  The only surviving example of this RAF type to serve in the war is being assembled at the RAF Museum at Cosford.
At present, there is a short opportunity to be able to see the engine of this aircraft un-cowelled.  Like most RAF aircraft of the time, it was fitted with the standard Rolls Royce Merlin engine.
These aircraft had some success at shooting down bombers, but they were no match for the faster and more manoeuvrable German fighters.
This photograph has been scanned from an old negative 110mm image of the Defiant, taken in 1976 at the RAF Hendon Museum.  At that time it did not have any squadron markings.  The yellow disk around the RAF roundel was meant to make the identity of the aircraft clearer in low light conditions.

 Tucked away in the corner of the warfare hanger is a Gloucester Gladiator.  This is a 1930's biplane fighter which was still in service during the Battle of Britain.  This aircraft is also being re-assembled for display.
 The Gladiator was outclassed at all levels by the second world war, but it was used to make up numbers and to train pilots for a short time.
I also have an image from 1976 from the Hendon Museum of this aircraft in the same colours.  The quality of this scan of a 110mm negative is quite poor, the film having degraded over the years.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Bara Can

Sunday Bread is a traditional Welsh bread for special occasions. It is easy and quick to bake and only requires one kneading and resting.
Oven on to 200 degrees Celsius.  1 tsp yeast mixed with 1/4 pint of warm water and some honey.
1 beaten egg with a pinch of salt added.  When yeast is frothing, mix in the beaten egg.
1 lb of unbleached Strong white flour and 1 oz of butter, rubbed together.
Add all of the ingredients and mix to a soft dough using about 7 fluid ounces of warm milk.
Knead well and place in a well greased and floured bread tin.  (I use a tin liner).  Rest for at least an hour until doubled in size.
Bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes.  The bread should be done, but if it fails the knock test, reduce the temperature and give it another 10 minutes.
The finished loaf is a soft white bake with a firm crust all around.  I remember bread like this in the 1960's as the norm.  Cool on a baking rack and stand for 2 hours before eating.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Djanogly Lakeside Theatre

Today we went to Beeston to park and catch the tram to Nottingham University.  This is a good and relatively inexpensive way of getting into Nottingham.
Our first call was at the Djanogly Gallery to see the extension of the Chinese Dinosaurs exhibition.  This is the free access part of the display which includes two mounted dinosaur skeletons and a number of cast specimens, including three pterosaurs.
The main purpose of this visit was to attend the "Not your father's pterosaurs" talk by Mark Witton, which was bases at Nottingham Lakeside Arts on the University Campus.
The theatre was set for the Jungle Book, which was an appropriate stage set for the talk. This was a stroll through the pterosaurs, from origins to extinction, looking at the evidence and ideas that have been inspired by finds over the last 20 years or so.
There was nothing new to me, but it did leave me with the feeling that Mark's logic and approach to this group of animals was well aligned with my own views on the subject.  What a good talk.